The Sinking of the Maine

Contributor: Brian Anthony. Lesson ID: 12291

Should one country meddle in another country's affairs? What is the responsibility of the news media during a time of crisis? What is "fake news"? Learn how dubious reporting helped lead to a war!


United States

learning style
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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What if a major historical event, one that caused a serious war, never really happened?

Remember the Maine pin

Image from the Robert Bowen Collection, via the National Park Service, is in the public domain.

Some historical events are so big that they cause a war.

Many people alive today remember the events of September 11, 2001, and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that followed. For the previous generation, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor is remembered as the event that brought the United States into World War II. For the generation prior to that, people alive in 1898, the great slogan and battle cry was, “Remember the Maine!”

The U.S.S. Maine was a naval battleship stationed in Havana Harbor, Cuba. Tensions between the United States and Spain, the then-rulers of Cuba, had been rising for some time. Suddenly, an explosion sunk the Maine, killing over 250 American soldiers. Within two months, the United States would place blame for the explosion on the Spanish government and would declare war on the Spanish.

Learn more about the Spanish-American War. As you read the article below,* write down answers to the following questions:

  • What were the Spanish doing in Cuba?
  • What reason is there to doubt the story about the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine?
  • What was the result of this war?

*Now, read the article, The Spanish-American War, courtesy Social Studies for Kids. You can also watch the video, Spanish-American War – 3 Minute History by JAZBY:

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Collect your answers and share them with your parent or teacher. Then, discuss the following questions:

  • Why do you think the United States was interested in Cuba? What makes you think so?
  • Why would some American newspaper owners have possibly wanted a war with Spain?
  • How could someone find out the real truth once historical events have passed?

The mystery of the sinking of the U.S.S. Maine has never been fully solved.

In the Got It? section, take a closer look at some of the historical evidence, then decide for yourself if you believe the original explanation of the story or not.

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